Ray’s & Stark Bar’s Cur-ate Dinner Series

Rays_CUR-ate_generalLP_060515_01On July 14, foodies and fine art aficionados are flocking to LACMA to learn how the role of food is displayed in art.

The after-hours tour inside the LACMA galleries is led by Artbites founder Maite Gomez-Rejón. It’s a historical and social context art gallery tour with guests taking a “bite” out of the city with an evening of Exploring Los Angeles focused on the special exhibition Drawing in L.A.: The 1960s and 70s.

The four-course dinner prepared by Chef Viet Pham pays homage to L.A. neighborhoods immediately follows the tour.
This art and dinner evening is $90 for LACMA members and $100 for non-members. A theme wine and cocktail pairing is available for additional cost.

Guests will meet at the BP Grand Entrance on the LACMA campus in front of Ray’s & Stark Bar at 6:30 p.m. – 5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036 – http://www.raysandstarkbar.com

Reservations are required and can be made by contacting the LACMA box office at (323) 857-6010.

Foodies Love The James Beard Award Winning Slanted Door in San Francisco

IMG_5873San Francisco offers a plethora of foodie destinations that will wow all of your senses. My favorites offer an Asian fusion menu. Next time you visit The City by the Bay, make a reservation at The Slanted Door.

THE SLANTED DOOR

We got a table on a Sunday night without reservations! Don’t take that risk, unless you are willing to wait. This Vietnamese hot-spot at the Ferry Building is still HOT on the dining radar scene, even after 20 years.

Charles Phan is the owner and Executive Chef of The Slanted Door. His parents left Vietnam after the war ended in 1975 and arrived in San Francisco in 1977. Pham was 15 years old and developed a passion for food. He became the family chef while his parents worked multiple jobs. His mother taught Pham how to prepare Vietnamese cuisine with a French fusion.

Throughout high school Phan worked at various restaurants in the Bay area including Chez Panisse and Zuni Café. IMG_5876

After getting a degree from UC Berkeley, he worked a variety of jobs before opening The Slanted Door with his family.

The first Slanted Door Restaurant was located in the Mission District showcasing farm-fresh, locally sourced products producing the cutting edge of Vietnamese cuisine. Ten years ago, they moved to the Ferry Building when the expansive space became available. It’s now a tourist and local go-to restaurant for extraordinary dishes.

Phan’s restaurant earned The James Beard Outstanding Restaurant Award in 2014, by redefining Vietnamese food California, so I was eager to experience his restaurant across the street from the Hyatt Regency San Francisco.

We sat in the bar/lounge area with paintings of dogs adorning the walls. The most requested tables are along the windows overlooking the bay and the raised booth tables.

IMG_5877Looking over the menu, the rolls section looked appealing. We ordered the crispy vegetarian Imperial roll with fresh lettuce, springs of mint, white vermicelli noodles, roasted peanuts and taro root. We took a cool leaf and spooned a little Asian sauce with sesame seeds, cool noodles, and then dropped a crispy roll on top with a few mint leave. It was heavenly.

Next a large and spicy grilled Berkshire 14 oz. pork chop arrived with poached peaches and a Thai chile lime sauce. It’s a big, spicy and hearty dish.

The stir-fry chicken was mixed with cashews, walnuts and delightful Chinese dates, raisins and soft ginkgo nuts. The flavor profile was pleasing as I placed a few scoops of brown rice on my plate and piled the stir-fry chicken with nuts and sweet dates on top. WOW!

Order the Japanese eggplant bathed in a coconut sauce with a Thai chile. It offers a kick of spice for a satisfying vegetarian dish.

We finished with freshly made beignets with a raspberry dipping sauce.  A sweet ending to a wonderful meal.IMG_5878

Hours:

LUNCH
MON-SAT / 11:00AM—2:30PM
SUN / 11:30AM—3:00PM

AFTERNOON TEA
EVERYDAY / 2:30PM—4:30PM

DINNER
EVERYDAY / 5:30PM—10PM

1 Ferry Building #3 / San Francisco, CA 94111 / (415) 861-8032

Little Next Door Has Soul

DSC_0449A tall gentleman walked into Little Next Door on a Tuesday night with sunglasses and a chic scarf tied around his neck. At first I thought he was the talented actor Liam Neeson with long hair. When he took off his sunglasses, I realized this very handsome French man with an air about him was Nicolas Meschin, one of the owners of The Little Door and Little Next Door.
He sat next to me throughout my dinner with a group of foodies and shared some interesting facts about the rise of The Little Door and what new at Little Next Door.

Growing up in France near Cognac, Meschin fondly remembers his mother cooking in the house Little-Next-door-lemon-tarts-224x300every day. He enjoyed hanging out in the kitchen, talking with his family and tasting from the pots while his mother added ingredients. “The Kitchen was the center and soul of my house,” Meschin said. “Today there isn’t as much communion in many kitchens with both parents working and busy schedules.”

In his 20’s Meschin followed his brother Frederic to Los Angeles and worked along 3rd Street in a Paris/Mexico Cafe. “We made French dishes and rolled them into a tortilla for a burrito,” Meschin said.

He started as a dishwasher and did a little bit of everything in the restaurant. “We used to share a cooler with Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa at the Japanese restaurant Oshou in the late 1970s,” Meschin said. Nobu worked next door to Meschin until Nobu opened his own restaurant Matsuhisa on La Cienega Boulevard in the late 80s.

The Meschin brothers opened their nightclub/restaurant, Flaming Colossus in the late 80s in downtown LA. “It was the Studio 54 of Los Angeles and a very artistic community back them,” Meschin said. He told me how the rock group U2 and Bono used hung out often, as did the new and innovative cast from Cirque de Soleil after they performed in their first So Cal show in Little Tokyo.

The brothers made a strong connection with Cirque de Soleil and soon started catering all of their Opening Night and VIP dinners. Today, they continue to work with the company whenever they are in town.

When the brothers discovered a space became available for The Little Door, they envisioned a new dining experience for Los Angeleos by opening the city’s first wine bar serving authentic French-Mediterranean cuisine.

The restaurant featured a variety of over 70 bottles of wine by the glass. “At the time there were 300 vineyards in California, now there are over 3000,” Meschin said. They took the wine wave at the right time and acquired bottles of wine at more reasonable prices.

Currently they have a spectacular wine collection with one-third from California, one-third from France and the remaining is a diverse collection from all over the world.

IMG_5273In 2006, with their success, they opened Little Next Door (literally next door) offering a true homemade croissant and lighter fare that included salads, sandwiches, salads, freshly baked organic breads, pastries, egg dishes and a variety of our famous house-made jams and preserves.
While chatting with Meschin, I learned he recently opened another The Little Door in Santa Monica.

While biting into a thick crusty crouton lathered with brie and mascarpone cheese layered with slightly sweet glazed apples and sprinkled with microgreens and candied walnuts, he shared he also is working on a The Little Door up in Santa Barbara.

The new chef Kevin Luzande at Little Next Door recently took over the kitchen after leaving Acabar in Los Angeles. He has worked in the kitchens of the Ritz Carlton in Marina Del Rey, and at Rivera and Playa. His specialties on this menu include a tuna tartare with a Japanese/Latin flair that included red pepper paste, avocado, scallions, shoyu and blue corn strips to scoop the soft ingredients and offer a crunchy texture.

The beet salad offered a variety of colored chopped beets with a pistachio granola next to creamy goat cheese and arugula.

Luzande creates spicy large prawns bathed in heat with Harissa and Aleppo peppers then cooled with labneh and pistachios.

IMG_5270The wine stewards of the evening – Francois and Didier poured glasses of French Rose’ and a slightly sweet white Francios Lurton “Les Fumees Blanches. Both paired nicely with the spiciness of the tuna tartare and prawns, offering the smell of citrus fruits with tropical notes and a hint of smoke.

For our next course, we all raved about the creaminess of the cauliflower dish. The roasted and caramelized cauliflower sat on a bed of luscious cauliflower puree. It was a satisfying vegetarian dish, as was the corn pudding summer ravioli served with chanterelle mushrooms and chive blossoms. Luzande takes fresh sweet corn and reduces it to a thick liquid slowly for one hour before it caramelizes the sugars. His pillowy ravioli pasta is stuffed with the corn and lightly drizzled with butter nage. It just melted in my mouth.
Another dish that sent a pleasing shiver throughout my senses was the salmon risotto made with a Little-Next-Door.Salmon-300x300-2 zucchini and basil puree. This healthy dish had a generous piece of salmon cooked perfectly with baby squash, oven dried tomatoes and fresh parmesan. Francois recommended a white Chateau Goudichaud, Graves De Vayres from Bordeaux to accompany this dish.

Even though I had enjoyed more food than I normally would eat in one sitting, I had to pierce my fork into two strips of Sterling Silver top sirloin served with a green peppercorn reduction. It was paired with a glass of Ramon Bilbao Tempranillo from Crianza. The cherry-red color wine offered an intense aroma of ripe red berries, bay leaf and mineral touches and some cocoa.

Known for their abundance of French pastries, macarons, cakes, tarts and pies, I was very pleased DSC_0448when a beautiful whole cherry chafoutis arrived to our table. Next, a plate of lovely lemon tarts was sent to our table topped with pristine white meringue and brown highlights.

Cake plates were delivered with warm chocolate, coconut and pistachio macarons. Most restaurants and pastry shops serve macarons cold that are hard to the bite, these macarons were warm and heavenly.
The pièce de résistance was small chocolate and caramel pot de creme with a sprinkling of sea salt and fig slices on top. The desserts covered all bases to satisfy everyone’s sweet tooth.
Come find the soul of French cuisine at Little Next Door.
Lunch is served at 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dinner is nightly from 6 to 11 p.m. They also have Happy Nights Monday through Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. On weekends brunch is served on Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. $$ 8142 W. 3rd St. (323)951-1010.

A portion of this article was featured in the July 2, 2015 issue of the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea Newspapers.

Cinépolis USA Offers Magic Mike XXL Specials

th-3Now open – Magic Mike XXL” moviegoers at Cinépolis USA will get more than just a movie ticket this week from Tuesday, June 30-Thursday, July 2 between the hours of 6 to 11pm at all theaters except for Cinépolis Jupiter (6/2 only).

In partnership with Coca-Cola and working with Warner Bros. for backdrops as you’ll see below, Cinépolis USA will be presenting moviegoers with their very own tasteful Magic Mike XXL experience.

Magic Mike-inspired tight t-shirt (Coca-Cola/Cinépolis branded) clad models will be:th-4
· Greeting guests
· Adorning ladies with compliments
· Posing for photo opps in front of step-and-repeats or movie backdrops
· Hand delivering lucky ladies their “XXL” movie-themed cocktails*
**For purchase at luxury theaters. Champagne will be available for purchase at select premium theaters.

Each theater will also have #CinepolisXXL drink holders that come with the purchase of a 20oz Coca-Cola bottle – available for sale at the bar or concessions and promoted by the models.

To find the closest Theater to you, go to http://usa.cinepolis.com/index.aspx

Nice people at Crepes + Kitchen

Crepes+-Kithcen.Crepes1-199x300Walk into Crepes + Kitchen on Wilshire Blvd. near La Brea Ave. and the friendly owner, Yafit Barades greets you with a warm smile. She is genuinely nice to every person who walks in the door.

On a recent visit, Yafit introduced me to the newest member of the cafe, Irene. Irene is known for making the delicious salads and sandwiches that locals eat inside the cafe or out on the sidewalk patio.

Irene and Yafit have started a sandwich delivery service during the lunch hour. They make grilled chicken breast baguette sandwiches with provolone cheese; classic Paris ham sandwiches; Roast beef; Brie with prosciutto; Feta with tabbouleh; Albacore tuna with Swiss cheese and roasted turkey with pesto sandwiches. They are placed in a French-style basket to deliver and sell to office workers nearby. The basket comes back empty within 30 minutes and is filled for another delivery.

The kitchen sells great organic coffee by Groundwork in 12 oz. and 16 oz. sizes offering a hot drip, double espresso, Americano, traditional Macchiato, latte, cappuccino, mocha, dirty chai, chai latte and hot chocolate.

Yafit is an expert crepe maker. She prepared her Italiano with turkey, melted mozzarella and cheddar, fresh arugula, spinach, basil, tomatoes and roasted peppers. The thin crepe revealed a colorful array of ingredients.

Growing up in Israel, Yafit has fond memories of going to a crepe shop located next to the town’s movie theatre. They sold sweet crepes made with Nutella and a scoop of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream with whipped cream. “It was an ideal treat after seeing a movie,” she said.

For dessert or an afternoon treat, come in to have her simple cinnamon sugar and butter crepe with powder sugar or her Nutella crepe with sliced strawberries and bananas topped with whipped cream. Not only is the food worth coming for, but these gals make everyone who visits feel special and at home.

New hours are Monday through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. Delivery service is available. Parking is complimentary valet behind the building. $ 5223 Wilshire Blvd. (323)933-3403. http://www.crepespluskitchen.com

This article was featured in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea Newspapers.

Vernetti – The Culinary Hub of Larchmont Village

IMG_3761As a young boy, Chef Steve Vernetti learned how to cook from watching his mother and reading Julia Child cookbooks. At the age of 8, he made a tray of éclairs while his parents went out for the afternoon. When they returned, the kitchen was a disaster with bowls and pots cluttering the countertops. However, when his parents tried Steve’s creative confection, they were so impressed and they encouraged him to continue cooking.

Before his father passed away, he told Steve that he was a talented chef and that he should open his own Italian restaurant and call it Vernetti.

In 2013, Steve and his wife Joanna bought the popular Larchmont Village restaurant Girasole and completely renovated the interior and kitchen. They worked closely with their architect and friend David Thompson, founder and principal at Assembledge+, to make the space their own.

Vernetti’s menu features both traditional and inventive dishes made with seasonal ingredients sourced from local IMG_3745purveyors and family farms. Upstairs, Vernetti displays his shiny Rosito Bisani TR95 Pasta Extruder machine next to drying racks strewn with freshly made spaghetti, tagliatelle, rigatoni, pappardelle and scalloped sheets of pasta for Vernetti’s homemade ravioli.

The front of the restaurant space features a retail section offering gourmet products that are California grown or sourced from Italian food importers. The storefront includes L’Ultimo Forno pastas and biscotti, Majani chocolates, Romanengo fruit fondants, Bianco Dinapoli tomatoes and Pasolivo olive oils.

“To own a restaurant right here in Larchmont Village, in the same neighborhood where we are raising our family, is pretty amazing,” Steve said. “Joanna worked closely with David on the restaurant’s design evoking a modernized European bistro interior.”

The tables, bar top and large mirror frames are made locally by Treeline Woodworks with white oak reclaimed wood. The restaurant’s large interior mirrors provide a space-expanding illusion for the 45-seat restaurant.

IMG_3753Steve kept many Girasole staff members to help him in the kitchen and in the dining room. Chef Maria works side by side with Steve, specializing in pastries. The affable servers Bob and John, a Dylan McDermott look-alike, deliver plates of Italian fare to guests in the dining room. “The hour before the doors open and the servers greet a diner is critical. How I set the tone in the kitchen is how the mood is set for the dining room,” Steve said.

The night I dined at Vernetti with a friend, the dining room was loudly abuzz as guests were excited to try various dishes on the menu. Steve and Joanna were consummate hosts, floating to each table introducing themselves and answering any questions.

We started with house made giardiniera, which is an Italian favorite of colorful julienned and pickled vegetables in vinegar and oil. Next we tried the crostini trio which included a crostini topped with roasted beet, house ricotta, chopped basil and pistachios; a deviled egg crostini topped with anchovy; and a Ceci bean crostini topped with a vibrant green mint blended with Pecorino cheese.

Vernetti’s salumi platter is comprised of flavorful prosciutto, porchetta, bresaola and a spicy calabrese salumi with a few pickled vegetables.

We also enjoyed the tasting plate of three of his pasta specialties. The first was a pappardelle with sautéed wild IMG_3747mushrooms, cream and parmigiano. The trio also included a rigatoni with a tender braised short rib ragú and a linguine with Manila clams, white wine, garlic and crushed red pepper.

An entrée of octopus is served with creamy white beans and a fennel and cabbage slaw.Chef Steve rests in wine corks before being grilled. The cork has natural enzymes that help tenderize the octopus.

We enjoyed the dry-aged prime sliced porterhouse steak served with peppery baby arugula and shaved parmigiano.
For dessert, we shared one of Chef Maria’s fresh strawberry panna cottas, a cannoli filled with house ricotta cream and candied citrus peel and a delectable pistachio tiramisu.

IMG_3762Vernetti has applied for a beer and wine license that will hopefully be granted soon.

The restaurant is open seven days a week for dinner from 5:30 to 11 p.m. Soon they will add lunch from 12 to 3 p.m., breakfast Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., and eventually weekend brunch will be served from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. 225 N. Larchmont Blvd. (323)798-5886.

This review was also published in the June 25 edition of the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea Newspapers.

Starting off the Day with Fresh Green Juice

Everyone knows breakfast is one of the best meals for you to fire up your metabolism and start off your day. So Cal has a plethora of fresh juice spots that offer healthy green smoothies to pair with a healthy egg dish.

Here are my favorite spots offering green juice, smoothies or shakes filled with healthy greens to pair with your egg dish or just drink straight:

1. The Spa at Terranea –DSC_0910

When visiting Terranea for the day or staying overnight, visit the Spa. They have a small cafe inside that makes an incredible green smoothie. It’s called the Skinny Veggie made with kale, spinach, cucumber, apple, water and agave nectar. It’s very cold, filling and refreshing. Last time I sipped one it was $12 for a large cup with a side car. Take it to-go and walk along the cliff pathways next to the Pacific Ocean to see pelicans flying overhead and visit the local sea lions close by on a nearby rock. 100 Terranea Wa, Rancho Palos Verdes (310) 265-2740.

2. Four Seasons Westlake Village –

The night I stayed at the Four Seasons for their special Chef’s Dinner with Executive Chef Jesse Hansen, I filled out the room DSC_0576service door menu and hung it outside before retiring to bed. In the morning I received a delightful egg white Frittata with avocado oil, kale, roasted tomato and Gruyere cheese with a sprig of mint. It arrived with a thick green smoothie that was one of the best I have ever sipped. What a terrific way to start the day before taking a dip in the pool or getting a massage. 2 Dole Dr. Westlake Village, (818) 575-3000.

3. The Springs in the Art’s District –e4b1db99b4cdc230aea628dd9809c865_400x400

This new vegan urban oasis is all about health, wellness, sustainability and community. Located in the Downtown Los Angeles Arts District, they make amazing green juice concoctions. Sip a North Star made with apple, celery, spinach, kale, romaine, parsley and lemon. The Evergreen is filled with cucumber, celery, romaine, spinach, kale, parsley and dandelion. Or try the Forager mixed with apple, fennel, cucumber, basil, cilantro, parsley, dill, lemon, lime. All are Delicious.  Sip one after a yoga class. (213) 223-6226 · 608 Mateo St., Los Angeles, CA 90021

IMG_54294. Republique –

When I met a new friend at Republique on La Brea for a light breakfast, we both ordered the fresh green shake. For $7 it was ok, but not spectacular. It was a little too airy.

I did like the mushroom toast with soft scrambled eggs, exotic mushrooms and house cured ham on a thin slice of toasted baguette. 624 South La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, (310)362-6115.

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